New Hope For Multiple Sclerosis Patients
POSTED: 5:55 pm EDT August 29, 2006
UPDATED: 8:37 pm EDT August 29, 2006
RALEIGH, N.C. -- New research is breaking through old assumptions and helping people with Multiple Sclerosis.
More doctors are rethinking their approach to exercise for patients with Multiple Sclerosis, as a result of recent medical studies. It's a chronic nerve disease that damages parts of the brain and spinal cord and affects about 400,000 people, including men and women. Doctors say many MS patients are thermosensitive, which means heat or increased body temperature could cause their symptoms to get worse. So, for many years, some MS patients were told not to exercise.
"Many patients with Multiple Sclerosis over the years, have told us they were intolerant of heat and that they often got fatigued. So, the general recommendation for many years was don't push yourself, relax. Take it easy," said Dr. Mitchell Freedman.
Symptoms include facial numbness, muscle weakness, loss of coordination or balance, and fatigue. Recent studies suggest exercise, like chair aerobics, can help patients with multiple sclerosis regain balance and strength.
Doctors agree. So, they're pairing MS with physical therapists and fitness trainers.
"We realized that what the heat did, was it made it more difficult for patients to exercise, but being exposed to heat didn't make the disease worse," said Dr. Freedman.
Joanna Lee believes she's proof that exercise helps. Lee says her MS symptoms have improved, since joining exercise classes at WakeMed Healthworks center.
"I'm not tired. I feel like I'm more flexible. I still feel tight and stiff, but it's more flexible," said Lee.
"We kind of cover the entire body. We start from the top and go all the way down. We touch base on every single muscle group to help strengthen everything they have," said Elizabeth Penny, WakeMed physical therapist.
Penny is Lee's instructor and says beyond getting stronger, regular workouts can also boost the confidence of MS patients.
"By coming here, it gives them the support. They have one another to talk to, " said Penny.
"I can do the exercises at home by myself, but it's no fun. Two times a week, I come here and I see my friends and we talk and laugh," said Lee.
"The trick is to find an exercise program that's workable, that's doable," said Dr. Freedman. "One that your doctor recommends."
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